Issue 32: January 2001



News from the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian National Herbarium (CANB), for the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers.



CPBR News is produced monthly. If you wish to contribute, please email your suggestions to Val Oliver, the coordinator.


Val Oliver: ph (02) 6246 5533; fax (02) 6246 5249; email:


1. Herbarium and Services



2. Research Groups

Visiting Scientist

Dr Karen Edwards from James Cook University in Cairns will be visiting the Centre for 6 months from February 5. Following her Post Doctoral Fellowship at JCU with Paul Gadek on Sapindaceae, she will be working with Judy West and Randy Bayer on a molecular systematics project on the Sapindaceae tribe Dodonaeeae, which includes the wonderful Dodonaea, as well as Distichostemon and Loxodiscus (New Caledonia) and Diplopeltis. We are aiming to construct a phylogeny of the tribe based on molecular data and to understand the evolutionary patterns in the genus Dodonaea – this will really test past morphological hypotheses.

Karen also wants to gain more experience in molecular techniques associated with species and population level variation, and biogeographic analysis of molecular data. So, she will also be interacting with Andrew Young and others in the conservation genetics group as well as Mike Crisp at ANU.

During her time with us Karen is supported by a salary from the Rainforest CRC and it is very pleasing that we are able to maintain our collaborations with the CRC and with Paul Gadek at JCU.

[Judy West]


Caroline Servaes

Caroline Servaes has finished her six months of practical work at the Centre as part of her Msc-degree (University of Wageningen, The Netherlands). During her stay at the Centre, she has worked with Dr. Rogier de Kok on the species delimitation problems within the Pultenaea villifera - and Pultenaea glabra-complexes. The project had a mainly morphological character including multivariate analyses, and resulted in the splitting up of the Pultenaea villifera-complex into two distinct taxa. The Pultenaea glabra complex proved to be very diverse and no satisfactory delimitations within the complex could be made.

[Rogier deKok]





Book Launch

The launch of a new book titled Genetics, Demography and Viability of Fragmented Populations, edited by Andrew Young and Geoff Clarke, will take place at a breakfast function at CSIRO Discovery on Wednesday 7 February 2001, hosted by the Dr Jim Peacock, Chief of Plant Industry and Dr Jim Cullen, Chief of Entomology.

Speakers at the function will include Dr Geoff Garrett, CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Paul Wellings, Deputy Chief Executive, Environment & Natural Resources, Dr Denis Saunders, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems. The Hon Dr Sharman Stone, MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment & Heritage, will officially launch the book.

[Val Oliver]


Summer Scholarship Students

Julia Cooke's summer studentship with the CPBR ends on 9th February and she is currently finalising the results of her study into the  impacts of woody weed invasion (olives and privet) on the biodiversity of Cumberland Plain Woodlands (CPW). Julia found that leaf litter accumulation (depth and mass) beneath these weeds was significantly higher than in 'pristine', weed-free CPW habitats and that although  their  invasion was associated with significant increases in soil pH, they do not affect significantly the availability of soil nutrients. Julia's glasshouse germination experiment demonstrated that leaf litter had no adverse effect on the germinability of native CPW species, including two endangered ROTAP species. Changes in the floristic composition of native communities invaded by olives and privet appear to be caused by the 'shading out' of invaded habitats, rather than because of altered soil chemistry associated with increased litter accumulation rates, as some researchers have speculated previously.

[Tony Willis]


Patterns of genetic diversity in E.cladocalyx F.Muell. (Sugar Gum)

Eucalyptus cladocalyx (Sugar Gum) is a medium-sized to tall tree endemic to South Australia occurring in three disjunct regions: Flinders Ranges, Eyre Peninsula and Kangaroo Island. In southern Australia, E. cladocalyx has been planted as an ornamental, a windbreak and as a plantation species. Recent research has shown that it has considerable potential for timber production in low rainfall areas of the Murray-Darling Basin and the wheatbelt of Western Australia.

Genetic diversity in eight natural populations and three cultivated stands were examined using allozymes. Two of the cultivated stands, grown for timber production at Lismore and Wail in Victoria, were included to ascertain their origin. Uncertainty surrounds the source of the original seed collections of these stands, which were established in the late 1800s and early 1900s respectively. Similarly, a cultivated stand of E. cladocalyx var. nana was also included to assess its origin. This dwarf variant of E. cladocalyx is an informal taxon of uncertain horticultural origin and has often been used in amenity and windbreak plantings.

Relatively low levels of genetic diversity and moderate to large deficiencies in heterozygotes were detected in natural populations of E. cladocalyx. There were large genetic differences among populations with 26% of diversity being apportioned among populations. Based on their genetic distances, populations clustered into three distinct groups, which corresponded to the disjunct regional distribution of E. cladocalyx. Significant inbreeding coefficients and an outcrossing rate of t = 0.61 in the Wirrabara population, indicate relatively high inbreeding levels in this species.

The two plantation stands had higher levels of diversity, while var. nana had the highest levels of diversity in the study. This could be attributed to the original seed collections having access to larger, more diverse populations than those that presently exist or alternatively, a breakdown of neighbourhood structure which exists in natural stands. Allele frequencies obtained for both the Lismore and Wail stands were consistent with their origin in the Wirrabara region, southern Flinders Ranges, while frequencies for var. nana suggest origins in the Cowell-Tumby Bay region, Eyre Peninsula.

Patterns of genetic diversity in E. cladocalyx have important implications for conservation and domestication strategies. From a conservation perspective, the three disjunct regions of the species have large genetic differences and suggesting negligible gene flow. Any future threat to the persistence of populations in these regions would have a major and irreversible impact on overall genetic diversity in E. cladocalyx. From a utilisation perspective, the high levels of interpopulation differentiation suggest that large differences in performance could be expected in forestry trials. There is also potential for investigating heterosis involving interpopulation crosses. The relatively high levels of inbreeding in E. cladocalyx indicate seed production stands warrant careful planning to ensure that closely related trees are not in close contact. Seed collections from natural stands should take place following heavy widespread flowering to minimise the probability of collecting inbred seed.

[Matthew Rawlings, Maurice McDonald and Charlie Bell, CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products, Australian Tree Seed Centre, PO Box E4008, Kingston, 2604. ACT.]


Summer Student Presentations

The Centre's 2000/01 summer students will be giving talks on their respective research projects this Thur. 01/02/01, starting at 12.30 pm in the Herbarium Tea Room . Each of the talks will be ca. 15-20 mins long, with all presentations completed by 1.30 pm. A rough program and working titles follow:

12.30 Lindy Orthia (supervisor: Rogier de Kok).  "A phylogeny of Pultenaea"

12.50 Julia Cooke (supervisor: Tony Willis). "Impacts of olive and privet

invasion on the biodiversity of the Cumberland Plain Woodland"

13.10 Matthew Rawlings (supervisor: Maurice McDonald, CSIRO Forestry)

"Patterns of genetic diversity in Eucalyptus cladocalyx F. Muell. (Sugar Gum)"

I encourage you to attend and look forward to seeing you all there on Thursday at lunch time.

[Tony Willis]


3. Information Technology and Data Management

3.1 WWW Site

The URL for the Centre can be found at:

Please check regularly for new items of interest re Centre staff and activities.


ANBG Photo Collection

As the place starts pea-ing up as we head towards the Legumes Down Under conference in July, the ANBG Photo Collection is making a special effort to get all its best pea photos digitised and on the web. Some of the Interns are helping out with this and Rogier has donated the pick of his photos to the collection.

[Murray Fagg]


4. Education and Communication

2001 Student Botanical Internship Program


The 2001 Student Botanical Internship Program is now well underway, with 19 Interns giving up their summer break to work with us at the Centre. Training for the first few weeks of January has consisted largely of sessions dealing with basic herbarium and field skills, as well as lectures on general botanical principles (e.g. nomenclature, systematic methodology, etc). Four days were spent on a residential field trip to Jervis Bay, dodging intermittent rain showers and getting lost in small seaside towns while attempting to locate bushland remnants. This is only the second time such a field trip has been included as a part of the Internship, but judging from feedback received from staff and Interns, it is likely to be a permanent fixture for future Programs.

Interns have now (late January) started their assigned work throughout the Herbarium, working mainly on the collections, but also in a limited research support capacity in some areas. Earlier work sessions concentrated on mounting and incorporation of mounted specimens, and as a result of the Intern’s efforts, the Great Wall Of Incorporation in the old wing of the Herbarium has now all but disappeared. Hopefully, we can expect similar progress over the next few weeks…

[Brendan Lepschi]


Hall of Shame

The official anonymous chronicle of the 2001 field trip to Jervis Bay.

Once again the annual staff and intern exodus form Canberra was an outstanding demonstration to a cohort of interns of how not to engage in botanical fieldwork. In spite of dire warnings not to cock it up again this year, last years luminaries once again shone with unbelievable brilliance, and some new Stars-of-Shame have entered the hallowed firmament:

And this years' undisputed winner… drum roll and envelope please…

G.P.S. Brendan Lepschi, ably assisted by Bob Makinson – for navigating a convoy of white buses and Landcruisers through every conceivable backstreet in the hamlet of Manyana (twice!) in search of a grotty piece of stunted scrub on really lousy yellow soil, in spite of having visited the site previously while planning for the field trip; thus giving the name of the town particular significance. It was only stumbling on the site through stochastic intersection of geographic features and random car motion that stopped the convoy driving around forever. Directions? Real botanists do not ask for directions!




Captions below accompany photos displayed in the Herbarium tea room and in hard copies of the Newsletter.

  1. ‘Patriach Bob Makinson expounding matters botanical’
  2. ‘Anthony Whalen-Lenin - leading interns out of the wilderness’
  3. ‘Bob Makinson hypnotizing - ‘when you wake up you remember nothing we have taught you’



[Jim Croft]


  1. General Centre Matters

CPBR Report

We are now in the process of producing the next CPBR Report covering the period July 98 to December 2000. We expect to have first drafts of the text from program leaders and other staff by the end of January, and publishing in March 2001. The team putting it together is Val, Judy and Murray. If you have comments on the 1996/98 Centre Report and ideas on the content of this next one please feel free to raise it with any of us.



Name badges

By now most of you have collected your Centre name badge and I notice several people wearing them all the time. That’s great.

The main idea of them is so that we have a Centre identity when interacting with people external to the Centre.  It is helpful for some people, like Alison, to wear them all the time, others will probably only wear them when you have visitors or you are demonstrating something or giving a presentation or some similar activity. I would request that you do wear them at those times since they are a lot smarter than our conference type badges at the front desk, and it is always much better if a visitor knows your name.

The badges have been made for all Centre/Program U staff resident in herbarium buildings 502, 502A and building 1.

[Judy West]



The Centre and ABRS, with financial support from Environment Australia, are collaborating to populate a database of threatened plant information.  The database, maintained by EA, is called SPRAT - Species Profile and Threats Database, and the flora section originates from the ROTAP database developed, maintained and published by the Centre before being transferred to the then Endangered Species Unit of EA.

The purpose of SPRAT is to compile comprehensive and authoritative information  about plants, animals and environmental processes that trigger the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.  The data will be mined by policy developers and planners for environmental decision-making, monitoring of threatened plants and animals and for the periodic assessment of the status of these species.

There are several areas of the database of varying sensitivity, for example information on taxonomy, biological attributes, distribution, threats, etc.  To start with, the data will be only available for staff within EA, but after the application of various filters, a view of it will be made publicly accessible through the Internet to aid planners and developers assessing if the EPBC Act will be triggered by a proposed development.

The taxonomic information has been extracted from the Australian Plant Name Index and is continually being updated through feedback provided by the APNI team (Go A-Team!).  The S-Team (Yay Steam!) are filling in basic biological data from some 800 species gleaned from the literature, published and unpublished reports, recovery plans and departmental files.  Under the contract these will be provided to EA at the rate of 100 per month.

On the Centre side, Terena Lally, Julie Matarczyk and Helena Mills have been appointed to the SPRAT editing task and have hijacked Jim Croft's office as a command and operations centre.  They are accessing and populating the SPRAT database directly through the EA network, a process more efficient than compiling data off-line, and providing immediate feedback.

The S-Team is playing musical computers while the EA network is being upgraded to allow installation of more workstations.  So do not walk away from your desk for too long.

The S-Team meets regularly and will be communicating regularly with the ABRS SPRAT staff to ensure consistency of information being provided.  During the project they will be approaching botanical experts from the Centre and other institutions for advice and input in your areas of expertise.  Please help them as much as you can.

[Jim Croft]


The WINning Team

The What's it Name project has been funded for an extra year by ABRS and after the end of year break will be restarting its work with APNI and the A-Team to prepare a concise view of the current status of Australian Plant Names and summaries of recent name changes based on current literature.

As part of the first WIN project, among many other groups, Proteaceae was completed by Lindy Cayzer and will be published in printed form by ABRS.

One WIN view of and portal to APNI can be seen at:

A list of priority taxa has been developed for WIN processing this year, based on available literature, taxonomic, horticultural and environmental importance, discussion with ABRS and what the WIN team thought was a good idea at the time.  The WIN team meets often to argue with each other about the complexities of simple interfaces - if you want to know more see Murray Fagg, Greg Whitbread, Lindy Cayzer or Jim Croft.

[Jim Croft]


XML - a buzz word for the next decade

Remember the last millenium with everyone talking Internet and HTML and what clever people they were?  Well, that is all passe and very last Monday I am afraid. The word on the streets is XML.

Greg Whitbread had been buying and devouring very fat and expensive books on, and downloading gigabytes of, software on the subject to position IBIS for the next wave of information delivery and processing.  XML is a new environment for data representation, transfer and transformation and will almost certainly become the new backbone of Internet data.

The herbarium data transfer standard HISPID, used by herbaria throughout Australia to send and receive loans and exchange data is being rewritten in XML which provided the ability to represent much more complex data structures.

Greg and Jim Croft have been working with Helen Thompson of ABRS on representing Flora of Australia treatments in XML, storing the data in an Oracle database and delivering XML data to Internet Browsers such as Netscape and Internet Explorer.  Early prototypes are very promising and it is hoped that all of the Flora volumes will be able to be delivered in this way as Part of ABIF-Flora (Australian Biodiversity Information Facility). A draft ABIF page can be seen at:

An on-line view of a trial of Flora treatments of Hamamelidaeceae and Ulmaceae can be seen at:

Greg, Helen and Jim Croft have been working on an XML version of the Ocean Islands Ferns from volumes 49 and 50.  Trials can be displayed on the very latest versions of Netscape and Internet Explorer, but not all of the current XML standard specification has been implemented by these tools yet and we are running up against the limits of the technology.

Watch this space...

[Jim Croft]


Australia's Virtual Herbarium

At its July Council meeting the peak body of the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC), agreed that completing the data capture for the Virtual Australian Herbarium was a project worthy of support and rebadged it as more grammatically correct, but less euphonious, Australia's Virtual Herbarium (which ironically is pretty close to HISCOM's first name for the project, the Australian Virtual Herbarium).  There was some uncertainty as to how the project was to be funded, so the working group convened by Judy West was given the task of finalizing figures and producing a set of funding options for ANZECC to consider.

Over the past 6 weeks Judy has been negotiating feverishly with each of the State herbaria and Environment Australia on the scale of the databasing task, funding sources, etc. and has produced a report recommending a funding base of $10 million dollars spread over 5 years. The major effort is needed to employ additional staff in each of the Commonwealth, State and Territory Herbaria to complete databasing the estimated 6 million specimens of the total national collection, 40% of which is already databased The preferred funding option involves 1:1 contributions from Commonwealth and States ($4 million each) and a $2 million contribution from private sources. We have already had positive indications concerning the private sector funding and the Commonwealth contribution has been fed into the budget processes for next financial year. Members of ANZECC’s Standing Committee on Conservation will be considering the details and timing of contributions out of session next week. While the funding is by no means assured yet, we are hopeful of a favourable outcome and encouraged by progress so far.  If successful, the project will enable the employment of several additional data entry staff and allow us to complete the data capture of the ANH collection by 2006.

There is widespread interest in Australia's Virtual Herbarium as a tool for science, research, education, and environmental and resource planning.  The interdepartmental Biotechnology Australia has allocated $50,000 through ABRS and the Centre for enhancement of the interface and data exchange mechanism of the AVH prototype of Acacia specimens available on the web.  A contract has been drawn up with a computer consultant to undertake this task this financial year; they will be working closely with Greg Whitbread and Jim Croft on this project.

[Jim Croft]


6. Other News

Botanic Gardens batty visitors

Most people are aware that both Melbourne and Sydney Botanic Gardens are having problems with flying-fox colonies on site. But is there collusion? Recent satellite radio tracking of the flying foxes has shown that one animal tagged in the Melbourne Gardens in April was up in the Sydney Gardens by the end of July. Then within a fortnight this January it went from Sydney back to the Melbourne Gardens.

[M.Fagg via C.Tideman]



7. Diary of Events/Activities




Details (relate to projects)

29 January

Divisional Review

Jeremy Burdon

Charlotte Pass

30-31 January

Disease Workshop

Jeremy Burdon

CSIRO Lab - Long Pocket, Q

1 February

Summer Student Presentations

See page 2 of this Newsletter for details

See page 2 of this Newsletter for details

5 February

Murray Darling Basin Commission Workshop

Andrew Young, Judy West

Workshop on targets for terrestrial biodiversity - Gungahlin

7 February

Book Launch

Genetics, Demography and Viability of Fragmented Populations

Contributors and invited guests

CSIRO Discovery

7 February

Exec Committee mtg

Executive Committee

Agreed agenda

8 February

Workshop - National Biodiversity Project

Judy West

CSIRO with Land and Water Audit and Environment Australia - Gungahlin

20 February

Workshop re LucID

All staff working with interactive keys and those interested

LucID software and development options - Herbarium

27-28 Feb

Divisional Review

Jeremy Burdon


12-15 March

Review of Kew Science

Judy West


3-4 April

Biodiversity Sector, AC

Jeremy Burdon & Judy West

Regional location

17-21 April

Gardens 2001 Congress


In Canberra